NEW ORLEANS – The 23-year-old woman accused of murdering her two young children in the family bathtub Wednesday night suffered from mental disorders and had stopped taking her medication, according to her mother.
Eleanor Chapman said her daughter, 23-year-old Chelsea Thornton, who police say confessed to shooting her three-year-old son and then drowning her four-year-old daughter, loved her children, but suffered from bipolar schizophrenia and had a long history of mental illness.
The coroner's office identified the victims as Kendall Adams and Kelsey Adams.
Thornton and her children had just recently moved into the second-story apartment in the Gert Town neighborhood, said neighbors.
"My child loved her children," said Chapman. "Those children were beautiful."
Thornton, according to Chapman, had spent time at Southeast Louisiana Hospital, a mental hospital in Mandeville, as well as receiving treatment locally in New Orleans.
"She couldn't get her mind right," said Chapman.
Chapman became emotional and had to leave the courtroom several times during her daughter's first appearance before a judge. Thornton blankly stared at the floor during the proceedings.
Magistrate Judge Melvin Zeno found that there was probable cause to hold Thornton without bond on two counts of first degree murder.
According to the Associated Press, in a court record, police said Thornton told investigators she shot her son in the head then drowned him in the bathtub. "She then turned to shoot her daughter, however, the gun failed to fire. She then placed her in the bathtub and drowned her," the record said.
Chapman did not live with the family, though neighbors saw Thornton's significant other several times at the home.
The tragedy shook the Gert Town community to the core and neighbors said Thornton always seemed friendly and polite.
"They were real nice people, the lady, didn't seem like nothing was wrong with her. A normal person. When I heard that those kids were shot in there, I was like, this can't be happening," said Eddie Martin, who lives next door. "I was devastated, shocked. Total disbelief."
"I didn't sleep at all last night," said Willie Williams, a neighbor who placed stuffed animals outside Thornton's apartment Thursday morning. "That's why I come out, put some bears out here... Maybe the kids [didn't] have [any] toys, just to get some love that's all. Show some appreciation from the community."
The crime is still under investigation. Anyone with information relating to this crime should call Crimestoppers at 822-1111.
Also, anyone having difficulty taking care of a child should know that there is help. Under the Safe Haven Law, an unharmed child or baby can be left with an employee at any medical facility, fire department, hospital, police department, emergency medical services provider, pregnancy crisis center, medical clinic, public health unit or child advocacy center in Louisiana. The toll free National Safe Haven Alliance crisis hotline is 1-888-510-BABY(2229.)